2 Corinthians 12 – an “out of body” experience?

Philosophy of mind Theology / Biblical Studies

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Although I’m familiar with the view that the Apostle Paul is relating an “out of body experience” at the outset of 2 Corinthians 12, I’m pretty sure that he is not. That’s partly because I’m a physicalist and I don’t think that such things are even possible, but it’s also because the evidence for this claim about the meaning of this passage is pretty weak. I’ll explain why I say this.

The context is that Paul is explaining that he will not boast or take glory in himself and his own achievements. He is not worthy of such boasting, according to him. In passing, he gives an example of someone’s whose encounter with God is worthy of boasting about. He says:

Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself…

I am aware that virtually all commentators believe that Paul was talking about his own experiences fourteen years earlier on the road to Damascus, and that he was using the third person because he was embarrassed and did not want to sound as though he were boasting. If this majority opinion is correct, then the question of an “out of body experience” doesn’t arise. He never had one, and that is that. After all, nobody believes that Paul’s (Saul’s) body died on the road to Damascus and that his soul went to heaven. However, I know that some individuals don’t accept this thesis, and some use this passage as a proof text for dualism out of more of a doctrinal interest and don’t actually realise that this is the majority opinion of scholarly commentators. I am therefore not going to assume that the majority are correct (and for all I know, they could be wrong).

I have intentionally chosen to quote from the New International Version because this is the version used by the majority of contemporary evangelicals, and also because of the significant translation questions raised by the translators’ selection of phrases. I have highlighted some words in particular that are not present or implied in the underlying Greek text, and which also significantly impact the meaning of the passage. If you don’t yet see how they do, read on. I’ll explain the impact of the NIV’s addition of these words in my second argument below.

The inference that some people draw from this text (or at least, from this particular translation of it) is that Paul knows someone who was taken to heaven, but he’s not sure if that person was taken to heaven bodily, or if that person’s soul left the lifeless body behind and went to heaven without it, only to return, bringing the body back to life later so that the man could tell other people about his strange out of body experience.

Major reply 1: This was a vision

The first reply that I would make to this view raises none of the translation issues that I will delve into shortly. The first reply is just this: Why does Paul refer to the event as a “vision”? Now obviously, if the man went some place and was able to see it because he was actually there then this wasn’t a vision, it was merely an observation. But Paul shows some uncertainty about what actually took place (again, if we rely on the NIV translation). He has two possibilities in mind: Either the man physically went there, or the man went there without bodily going there (“without the body”). The word ektos can mean “without,” and doesn’t have to mean “outside of.” It can mean something like sans as we use that word today. In the former scenario, it definitely wouldn’t have been a vision, it would have been more like a visit. But Paul is talking about something that could well have been a vision (according to him). That leaves the second scenario as a possibility. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to talk this way about having a vision of another place and seeing things as though you’re actually there as “going” there, even though you did not bodily go there.

The fact that Paul is prepared to countenance the possibility that this might have been a vision (although he’s not sure) suggests that his reference to the man going somewhere, but not actually bodily going there, might well have been a vision rather than an out of body trip as many suppose. If this approach is correct, then Paul is telling us that he knew a man fourteen years ago who was taken to paradise, but he’s not really sure if the man was physically taken there, or if it was in fact one of the “visions” that Paul referred to in verse one.

I’ve made the following comments about “paradise” before, but they are relevant here. What I am saying is further bolstered by the way that the biblical writers used the Greek word paradeisos (paradise). This term is used in Genesis 2:8 and elsewhere in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint) to refer to the garden of Eden. It is used in this connection to refer to the eschatological restoration that God will bring about (Isaiah 51:3). It is used again in Revelation 2:7 in connection with the tree of life, something said (in chapters 21 and 22) to be present on the “new earth.” So there is no suggestion in Scripture that the term should mean “heaven” or some sort of spiritual intermediate state. On the contrary, it suggests a very physical state of existence and is connected with a restored physical world. Because of the presence of this word, then, the natural way to understand what this man saw is a vision of the future. Since it is a future state of affairs, it is more likely that this was a vision, unless the man was miraculously taken to the future and then brought back. From the man’s perspective, however, the likely fact is that he would have been unable to tell the difference between the two.

If all we need is a plausible and sufficient explanation of this passage that does not involve an out of body experience, we can stop there, because we have found one. Paul is referring to a vision, and that is that. But there’s more to see in this text, and there’s also a second solution as well, which I’ll get to shortly.

The “third heaven”?

What then, of the phrase “the third heaven”? What does this refer to? It’s a good question because that phrase doesn’t appear anywhere else in the whole Bible. However, there’s an interesting reference to multiple heavens in 2 Peter 3:5ff

[T]he heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Look at what is said here about the heavens and the earth: The “heavens and the earth” once perished. There now exists the “heavens and earth” that will one day pass away as well, and there will be a new heavens and earth.

For those who are counting, how many is that? Which one is the eternal state? By my count, it’s the third. The third heaven is the third sky – the sky in the new creation (I’m going to assume that the reader realises that “the heavens and the earth” just means “the sky above and the earth below” as a reference to the physical creation, as in Genesis chapter 1). Yes, it’s a strange way to put it, but don’t blame me, I didn’t write it. Speaking of the heavens and the earth just seems to refer to a “world order.” When all things are made new, we can speak of a new heavens and earth. The man then was caught up in a vision into the sky in the new creation (which is also how the term paradise is used), enabling him to get a view of it all. But while Peter uses this language of the heavens and the earth being replaced with version 3.0, Paul never does. But then again, Paul never spoke of these events with as much clarity either. Still, it is a speculative solution.

Does another solution exist?

The “third heaven” is also mentioned in the pseudepigraphal work (that means it was written in the name of an author who could not have actually written it) called the Apocalypse of Moses. There it is described as a physical place, equated with paradise, where the angel Michael buried the body of Adam as he awaits the resurrection. The difficulty with using this document as a source of Christian belief is that it is believed to have been written in the first century AD and very likely got this turn of phrase from 2 Corinthians itself.

There are a number of online pieces written by Christians explaining that the “third heaven” represent a spiritual place out there where God and the angels dwell. The first heaven is the sky or atmosphere, the second heaven is outer space, and the third heaven is what we mean when we talk about a person dying and “going to heaven” (see here for instance where this claim is spelled out). But these are all restrospective arguments, trying to come up with a way that three different types of heaven could be distinguished in order to justify the use of this phrase in 2 Corinthians. The fact is, the Hebrew Scriptures to which proponents of this claim appeal nowhere show any awareness of the idea of a “third heaven.” There was a Jewish view that there are not three but seven levels of heaven, like an onion with multiple layers, but the earliest record we have of this comes from the Talmud, after Paul’s time. True, it’s still possible that the idea was present but unrecorded in Paul’s circles, but how would we know? What’s more, if there are seven layers of heaven, why would Paul refer to only the third?

So while my suggestion as to what the “third heaven” refers to is highly speculative, it’s at least possible, and it’s also not clear what alternative there might be. Whatever it refers to, as a visionary event no out of body travel needs to be dragged into the already strange picture.

Major reply 2: The NIV translates the passage poorly

About twelve years ago I purchased a copy of the New Testament translated from Aramaic sources by George Lamsa. If you’re not familiar with this work, it’s an interesting enough story. There’s a view that the New Testament was originally written in Aramaic, and this translation purports to be from those original Aramaic sources. There’s a bit of fantasy in all of this. As is widely accepted, the earliest New Testament documents that we know of were in Greek, not Aramaic. The Aramaic Peshitta is still a very useful source, but that’s another subject altogether. Anyway, I bought this copy of the New Testament out of interest, and read it. On the whole, there’s nothing terribly different or striking about it compared to what’s available in other translations. I was fascinated, however, when I got to 2 Corinthians 12. This is what I started to read:

BOASTING is proper, but there is no advantage in it, and I prefer to relate the visions and revelations of our Lord. I knew a man in Christ more than fourteen years ago, but whether I knew him in the body or out of the body, I do not know; God knows; this very one was caught up to the third heaven. And I still know this man, but whether in the body or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knows; How that he was caught up to paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a person, I will boast; but of myself, I will not boast, except in my weaknesses.

I have highlighted the part that really leapt out at me. “What? That’s not what it says!” I said to myself. I knew what this verse was supposed to say, or so I thought. I consulted my NIV, which confirmed my previous belief about what it said. It’s supposed to say that Paul knew a man fourteen years ago, and this man was caught up to heaven, and Paul doesn’t know if that event was in the body or out of the body. This is why I highlighted some words in my quotation of this passage from the NIV, because those words stress that this is what the translators meant to convey.

Then I did something that can be life changing. I checked. I did not expect what I found. I first checked the King James Version, just because I knew that it took a very literal approach to translation, and literal wording was the crucial factor here. And lo and behold, the very first version I checked sided against the NIV, as follows:

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

You should immediately spot the difference. Just as with the Lamsa translation, the KJV likewise never even suggests that the man’s experience might have been out of the body. No, the phrase “without the body” is used to describe the way in which Paul knew this man. I had to check more versions – those versions with a literal approach to translations. So I checked the American Standard version: “I must needs glory, though it is not expedient; but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to the third heaven…” Another one! I tried Young’s Literal Version: “I have known a man in Christ, fourteen years ago—whether in the body I have not known, whether out of the body I have not known, God hath known—such an one being caught away unto the third heaven…” I checked my interlinear Greek English New Testament. Sure enough, these literal translations were giving what is essentially a word for word translation of this passage. The NIV was wrong.

What exactly does the text mean? I think Lamsa was right. Now, Lamsa added in a couple of words to make a strange sentence seem clearer. The text says “whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know…” whereas Lamsa says “but whether I knew him in the body or out of the body, I do not know.” Given the structure of what is said here, however, this makes sense, and I think it fairly represents the idea being expressed. But what does it mean? It’s not crystal clear. What does it mean to know someone “in the body” or “without the body”? One possibility is that Paul knows of the person, but isn’t sure if it is someone that he has met “in the flesh,” so to speak, or if it’s a friend of a friend. I would not dogmatise about what the phrase means, because it’s not clear. Drawing an uncertain conclusion in such circumstances is quite acceptable.

What is not acceptable, however, is to make phrases clear by changing their subject, which is effectively what the NIV has done. Unfortunately, even my current favourite translation, the ESV, falls prey to the same temptation. It reads, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know…” The order of phrases is changed and the word “who” is added, shifting the meaning, just as with the NIV. What we have now is phrasing that is clear English, but which has given up its original meaning altogether.

I’ll draw this to a close here, but in summary, I don’t think we have any good reason to believe that Paul is describing somebody’s out of body experience. To recap:

  • First, most believe that Paul was speaking of himself and his Damascus road experience, in which case this was not an out of body experience.
  • Second, Paul tells people that this is possibly a vision. That should be sufficient to end the matter.
  • Third, the reference to “paradise” lends weight to the above, since that word is used in the Scripture to refer to a state of final restoration, a state that has not yet happened.
  • Fourth, “third heaven.” Yeah, what’s up with that? I’m not sure, but it might offer support for the thesis that this was a vision of the future.
  • Fifth, and taking the discussion in a whole new direction, those versions that imply that this man was caught up to heaven but possibly out of his body have badly mistranslated this passage. The underlying Greek text refers to no such thing, nor do the most literal English translations.

And as Forrest Gump says, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

Glenn Peoples

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{ 72 comments… add one }
  • Joey March 14, 2010, 10:59 pm

    Bravo.

  • Geoff March 14, 2010, 11:10 pm

    I did some researching into this awhile ago, whilst talking to “Jesusonians”. Aquinas has a quite good discussion on this, and refers to it as “how close to God you get”. That is, when one is “rapt”, one is closer to God than normal. So, if one is “rapt” to the 3rd heaven, its quite close to God, since the first and second were probably understood more physically, symbolically, but still as ‘earth’ and ‘sky’. So, the third heaven would be more intimate with God than someone in “this realm” (who can only get as high as 2).
    So yes, most likely a vision or spiritual experience of intimacy with God beyond the normal drudgery of human life.. usually reserved for something particularly profound.. a revelation, damascus rd experience, etc.
    Its definately NOT meant to describe multiple layers of heaven, nor an OOBE (in the sense of astral travel).

  • Dave March 15, 2010, 7:58 am

    It’s true that the Talmud post-dates Paul significantly, but it also contains records of oral tradition stretching back into the first century. 2 Enoch, which dates to the first century, also mentions the Third Heaven, specifically as the location of paradise.

    Still, if Paul meant it in this way, we still don’t know exactly what he was talking about, since beliefs about the particulars of the Third Heaven were varied. In any case, this passage is not the surefire proof of dualism that many take it to be.

  • Dave March 15, 2010, 8:03 am

    Also, reflecting the common Jewish belief that the ultimate eschatological future is stored up in heaven at present, Revelation depicts Paradise and the Tree of Life as existing with God in the present.

    So I don’t think we can dismiss the possibility that Paul is talking about an actual level of “heaven” wherein one would find paradise.

  • Glenn March 15, 2010, 11:14 am

    Dave, yes, I indicated that there maight have been a belief in a seven-layered heaven in Paul’s circles, but we have no way of knowing this.

    Also, it’s questionable that the vision in the book of Revelation was intended to show us what heaven is like. I’m strongly inclined not to think this – and even then, the book of Revelation doesn’t directly say that “paradise” is in that vision.

  • CPE Gaebler March 15, 2010, 1:24 pm

    When you discussed the fact that “paradeisos” is Biblically referring to a physical state, I was instantly reminded of your earlier post on Luke 23:43 (“Luke 23:43 and Soul Sleep”) – mightn’t one say that this adds a third somewhat compelling argument that “I say to you(,) today(,) you will be with me in Paradise” is not Jesus referring to a spiritual state-after-death?

    Also, I think it certainly strengthens your first argument there. If “paradeisos” is indeed not “some sort of spiritual intermediate state,” clearly the man was not the next day “literally” with Christ in an eschatologically restored physical paradise! But, of course, it is still entirely possible for it to mean that from the individual’s perspective, the next experience he’d have would be in that restored Eden.

  • Damian March 15, 2010, 1:40 pm

    Glenn, what would your view be on the current state of Jesus? If you believe that he physically rose from the dead what do you believe happened to him after that?

  • Glenn March 15, 2010, 5:11 pm

    Damian, I’m not really sure. It’s not something the biblical writers say anything about.

  • Glenn March 15, 2010, 5:13 pm

    CPE, actually my comments in this post about paradeisos are mostly just copied and pasted from that other post. 🙂

    And yes, I agree with your comments.

  • Damian March 15, 2010, 6:56 pm

    Glenn, in Luke and in Acts it says he was taken up into heaven (he went “up” into the sky where he was hidden by clouds). What do you think this means? Do you think that Jesus remained physical and lived to an old age where he died in obscurity? Perhaps with a family and children? Or that he still physically lives somewhere. If so, can he travel faster than the speed of light? If he can’t then can we say that he’s no further than 2000 light years away from earth right now?

  • Glenn March 15, 2010, 7:15 pm

    Damian, yes I know what happened at the end of the Gospels. I took you to be asking where Jesus is now, in the period of time after leaving his disciples and ascending into the sky.

    You’re asking me questions which are just new versions of the earlier question – where is he now and what’s his “current state”? Since I don’t know the answer to this question, because the New Testament writers just don’t say, I’m unable to answer the question, even in it’s re-worded form. It doesn’t matter how the question is worded. I understood it, I just don’t know what the answer is, as I have no source of info to use.

    What was the last thought to go through George Washington’s mind?

  • Damian March 15, 2010, 8:36 pm

    I’m not asking what you *know*. What you believe. What you think.

    (I think that the last thought to go through Washington’s mind was probably something like “oh no” or “I feel so weak” or something completely delusional – hardly of interest to this conversation though because it’s not at all central to my beliefs whereas what happened after the resurrection is kind of pertinent to a physicalist Christian).

  • Glenn March 15, 2010, 9:28 pm

    Damian, my point re: Washington is that there’s no source on which to draw to get information on what last went through his mind. The question was designed to show why there’s a methodological issue here.

    I do not know how I would go about finding out the answer to your question – even a hint – and as such I have not formed an opinion.

  • Dave March 16, 2010, 6:02 am

    Something else to consider in this discussion:

    Paul uses the same terminology of “in the body” and “away from the body” in 2 Corinthians 5. That passage, contrary to its common usage, is actually a valuable tool in the physicalist’s arson, since there Paul quite firmly states that he does NOT wish to be “unclothed” but to be “clothed” with the resurrection body.

    So, in 2 Corinthians 5, I take the phrase “away from the body” to be a reference to the resurrection – in other words, away from the mortal tent and present with the Lord in the immortal mansion.

    Perhaps we might surmise that Paul doesn’t know whether the man in question was in his mortal body when he saw the vision or somehow resurrected prematurely, in the fashion of the saints who rose in Matthew 27:52-53. Possible, but it stretches the imagination a bit.

    Another possibility is that in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is using the term “body” figuratively to describe the church. Perhaps he didn’t know if the man was in the local Corinthian church body or not.

  • CPE Gaebler March 16, 2010, 6:15 am

    D’oh! Wow, memory is a fickle thing. I remembered you’d done the post on Luke 23:43, but not that it specifically talked about paradeisos.

    Oh well.

  • Deane March 16, 2010, 7:16 pm

    Compare the (Christian, ‘orthodox’) Ascension of Isaiah chapter 6 (which Bauckham dates to ca. AD 70), where Isaiah’s body sits in a chair while he (envisions) an ascent through the 7 heavens. That is, his mind separates from his body – and this separation is equated with a visionary experience. Different qualities of embodiments (from human to more ‘angelic’) are required at each stage through the heavens for Christ and angels, who in fact travel through the heavens. I suspect that the picture of John bodily on Patmos and “in the spirit” (and having a vision) in Rev 4.1 has much the same conception, too.

    There are a number of allusions to Apoc Moses in this part of 2 Cor – is it really feasible to see the allusions going the other way?

  • Glenn March 16, 2010, 7:57 pm

    However, Deane, when a person “envisions” something, most of us (I, at least) don’t think they are actually leaving their body.

    Few would say, for example, that John on Patmos left his body.

    As for the Apocalypse of Moses, if Paul really is borrowing from it in his reference to the third heaven and paradise, then we’re left with the term referring to a physical place where one can bury a body. And again, the issue is one of dating. We just have no firm reason to think that this book was even in currency when Paul wrote.

  • James Rea March 16, 2010, 10:19 pm

    Damian, surely we can surmise something of Jesus’s post-resurrection state from the scriptures. We know from eye witness evidence that Jesus spent 50 days in his resurrected spirit body on earth. This new body was equipped to appear inside locked rooms, be touched and consume food. Made of a non-earthly matter called spirit, he could do things only heavenly beings could do yet had ‘physical’ presence.

    On ascension to reside back with God, he chose to begin the transition by rising in the air until out of sight. The Bible declares him to be seated at the right hand of God. Whether you believe he has a certain throne or this phrase refers to Jesus occupying the place of highest honour in heaven is up to individual interpretation. Either way he is unique amongst men and beings able to dwell in the spiritual realm. He has spirit form in heaven that is spatial and has all the power of creation at his disposal, something only the Father and the Holy Spirit share.

    What the Bible isn’t too specific about are the properties of a spirit body. Lighter-than-air travel and instant appearances are 2, so why not faster-than-light transition?

  • Glenn March 16, 2010, 10:33 pm

    James, wait a sec: “Made of a non-earthly matter called spirit”?

    Where are you getting that from?

  • Nathan March 16, 2010, 10:52 pm

    woah… deja vu

  • James Rea March 17, 2010, 12:08 am

    Nathan, too right. From Luke 23:43 and Eat, Drink and Be Merry probably. Always on message 😉

    Glenn, what do you mean ‘where am I getting that from?’ Spirit is a substance (or matter) that is not made from elements from the Periodic Table, or don’t you agree? Scripture is full of spirit beings performing acts on earth, but the only connection man has with the heavens is by occasional visions (as you explain thoroughly in this post). We can’t experience their existence in our current form.

    If spirit is an ethereal, non-substance how was Jesus touched? He went out of his way to prove his solidity.

    You may believe, however, that Jesus was not in his post-resurrection spirit body and changed again to enter heaven. Personally, I don’t.

    I am drawing these conclusions from Paul’s lengthy piece on our eternal bodies (spiritual) from 1 Cor 15. As a physicalist espousing soul sleep to awaken to eternal, resurrected bodies, I would have thought this would be a pushover.

  • Dave March 17, 2010, 2:20 am

    James,

    The spiritual body is not made out of something called “spirit.” The concept of spirit as some sort of building material was not part of the conceptual furniture of a first-century Jew; it’s much more in line with, say, Mormon thinking. The word for spiritual is “pneumatikos,” meaning “driven by the spirit.” Had Paul wanted to say that the body was made out of a substance called “spirit,” he would have used the term “pneumatinos.”

  • Glenn March 17, 2010, 10:59 am

    James, when I asked where you were getting it from I was asking where you were getting the idea that Jesus had a new body made of a substance called spirit.

    Being spiritual isn’t the same as being made of a substance called spirit. For example, Jesus claimed to be made of flesh and bone, and specifically said, after his resurrection, that he was not a spirit (“a spirit does not have flesh and bone as you see I have”).

  • James Rea March 18, 2010, 12:23 am

    Dave, Glenn, having done some reading on this difference between -ikos (led by) and -inos (made from) I see where you’re coming from. Regarding the nature of a resurrected body I see several possible scenarios:

    1. In 1 Cor 15, Paul is referring to a non-corporeal body being resurrected at the point of salvation which is now under the control of the Holy Spirit, therefore is spiritual.

    2. Paul is talking about a resurrection body that is of a different order to natural bodies that decay. It is everlasting, but still non-material, and created at Jesus’s return.

    3. As 2, but material bodies that are everlasting.

    The problem with 1 is that Jesus and NT writers consistently equate the resurrection with the return of Jesus, not at the point of salvation. Jesus was under the total leading of the Holy Spirit before his death and resurrection and so was spiritual, but he had not entered into his heavenly body. As he is the firstfruits of those who believe, so we have an identical future hope.

    The problem with 2 is that resurrection to a non-corporeal form is both platonic and gnostic in origin, besides being outside the Jewish framework.

    3 is the only resolution from scripture. These material resurrected bodies clearly have undergone some transformation such that they will never decay, they will be totally united to Jesus (and by default be 100% Spirit-led), and will be able to carry out amazing feats (compared to the natural). I see a reasonable argument from Biblical example that this is what constitutes a spirit (not spiritual) being.

    If Paul calls that a pneumatikos body, who am I to disagree. How do the two of you picture our nature after resurrection?

  • Nathan March 18, 2010, 2:39 am

    What I want to know is why the resurrected body needs to be different to Adam and Eve’s body prior to the fall – the body that God intended. If we believe a new heaven and new earth is creation restored to it’s original glory, then it’s logical to see the resurrected body being similar to Adam and Eve’s. We will have the body they did if they had eventually eaten from the tree of life.

    Or do we believe that this is what’s meant by new heaven and new earth?

    James, It seems to me that 1 Corinthians 15 stresses that the resurrected body is the same body as the one that died. Otherwise it’s not really a resurrection. And by ‘spiritual’ it means imperishable – imperishable in the sense that it is sustained in eternal life (immortality) given by God through the last Adam (Jesus Christ), rather than being of the natural first Adam (fallen) kind. Elsewhere in Paul’s writings Jesus is contrasted against Adam, and the same is true here.

    Paul doesn’t ascribe any other ‘feature’ to the body. It’s not some kind of different matter at all. Why should it be? Which leads to the next obvious question: why must imperishable mean matter that cannot decay? Only dead or diseased matter decays. Death is not decay, and decay is not death. It’s quite possible for something imperishable (i.e. something that cannot die) to also have a biological function that facilitates the replacement of dead cells with new ones, dead cells which would eventually decay.

    And there’s no mention of “amazing feats” as you put it. Where do you get that idea from? If you are taking your cue from Jesus, don’t.
    Jesus is as much divine as he is human but we’re not at all divine, so why must it be the case that we can move around in the same way Jesus did after the resurrection?

  • Dave March 18, 2010, 4:21 am

    Nathan,

    The question at the beginning of your post was a good one. I don’t have any certain answers, but many theologians distinguish between the world of Genesis 1 and the world of Revelation 21; creation is not simply restored to its original state, but brought to a new and better completion.

    The world of Genesis 1 was good, but it had still not been brought to its full potential. There was only one couple; the world was to be filled with multitudes. Adam and Eve lived in a garden; in the end, the abode of the righteous is a city. So I think it’s possible that the original body, while it could be sustained through eating from the tree of life, was not yet glorified (after all, the resurrection body of the future is fashioned after that of the Messiah; but Adam and Eve’s body didn’t have the benefit of that prototype.)

    What you think on this subject will also be determined by how literally you take Genesis; for example, I am unconvinced that the Tree of Life was a literal plant, rather than a metaphor for something else.

  • Nathan March 18, 2010, 1:50 pm

    Reading it as literal or metaphorical is irrelevant to what would have taken place had Adam and Eve (literally or metaphorically) eaten from it. From that point they would have lived forever (Gen 3:22 – unless you also want to take living forever as metaphorical?) which is why God, who could not let evil exist forever, barred them from the tree. There is no other power from which life is given but God, so yes, the tree of life is metaphorical in the sense that it represents eternal life (what we now know to be given through Jesus Christ). I don’t think it is much of a stretch to link it this way. Seems to me the only difference between original creation and restored creation is the presence/destruction of evil and death, which we know will be finally overcome. Literally. 🙂 Creation is numerically identical post resurrection to creation pre fall. There will be qualitative differences (death evil sickness etc gone), that much is obvious.

    What is glorification if it is not the perishable being clothed with the imperishable, the mortal being clothed with immortality, “in the twinkling of an eye”? Is that really any different to what the tree of life would have given? After all, the source behind the tree of life and the source behind eternal life (imperishable/immortal) is the same.

  • James Rea March 19, 2010, 12:17 am

    Since Adam and Eve were not allowed to partake of the tree of life, we cannot say that some sort of transformation would not have occurred if they had eaten of it? In the same way, all the indications from Paul in 1 Cor 15 are that the resurrected body is different in many ways to the old natural one.

    In verse 23 of that chapter he writes that Jesus is the firstfruits, then we follow in like fashion when he returns. I fully expect to be capable of far more in my new death- and sickness-free body which is totally like Jesus’s (v49).

  • Glenn March 19, 2010, 12:38 am

    Just a thought – whether we construe Adam and Eeve as literal historic individuals or not, I’m not sure that in the story we can call them immortal prior to their sin. Perhaps the tree of life was something that they could have received – but never did, because of their sin. I’ve heard it suggested that rather than “immortal,” we might think of them as “immortable,” that is, capable of receiving eternal life or forfeiting it. They did the latter.

  • Nathan March 19, 2010, 2:59 am

    Glenn, I think we really can be sure they weren’t immortal, for if they were the tree of life (literal or metaphorical) had no purpose. I am sure they could (would?) have eventually eaten from the tree of life, and lived for ever as a result, but like you say, they forfeited that opportunity.

    This was the first, and is still the dominant reason why I have never been able to accept the view that we have an immortal soul. But that’s off topic. 🙂

    James – different in that is is imperishable/immortal, yes. Can teleport and has intangibility/phasing ability? Why is this necessary? The more I think about it the more irrelevant speculation about those abilities seems. But it’s fun, so treat me like a dummy and take me through it.

  • Geoff March 19, 2010, 11:14 am

    @Nathan
    I dont think we can be sure they were not “immortal” at all.

    Quite the opposite in fact, because the “fruit” of any tree is not magical. Eating from the tree of knowledge (the ACT of eating) is what got them into trouble, not the fruit itself.

    The tree of eternal life has a theological importance, that is, access to it only comes through being in Eden, that is, in close proximity, and in “right” relationship with God.
    So, we can assume quite rightly that its proximity to God that gives eternal life (theologically symbolised by the tree), and not because any fruit are eaten.

    We can be sure that to be right with God means that we will have eternal life – as the bible promises this repeatedly. We can also be sure that because of sin, Adam and Eve and the rest of us do not have eternal life, apart from right relationship with God, through Christ.

    Had Adam done what he was told, Adam would have lived eternally, what ever that means.

  • Nathan March 19, 2010, 12:52 pm

    Geoff, I haven’t at any point said anything about a magical fruit.

    It’s the same idea whether you read the story in a literal or non-literal sense. Do you think they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge literally? If so then ‘eating’ from the tree of life carries the same meaning. Do you think they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge figuratively? If so then ‘eating’ from the tree of life carries the same meaning as that. Either way you want to read it, the result would be the same, which is the point I have always made: they would from then live for ever. (unless God was joking and it isn’t the tree of life which allows them to live for ever? 🙂 the point being that through ‘eating’ God honours the tree’s purpose. It’s just the same as us confessing Jesus in faith and God honouring Jesus’ purpose).

    God didn’t say they were barred from the tree so they couldn’t get close to it. The tree of life isn’t/wasn’t some kind of Mecca where the closer you get to it the more your salvation is assured. My proximity to God does not determine my salvation – I am still a sinner! If salvation is determined by proximity, then we don’t need Jesus, we just need to be good. Good luck with that. 😉

    What God said was (Gen 3:22):

    “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever

    God’s not going to say that if Adam can already live forever.

    Saying they are not immortal is not the same as saying they were mortal, as weird as that may seem. They would probably have eventually gone either way, irrespective of how long it would have taken them to do that. Fact is, they took the disobedience option.

  • Glenn March 19, 2010, 2:48 pm

    I’m with Nathan on this one. It was a probation, a trial, to decide whether man would be immortal or not.

  • Geoff March 19, 2010, 4:32 pm

    @Glenn: well its nice to know you can be wrong about some things 😛
    If you are correct, at what point was God going to say “Oh, what a good boy you are, not having eaten the fruit, here you go, immortality for all!”
    I would suggest it makes more sense that Adam was created to be how Adam was going to be (eternal), and removal from the presence of God stopped that.
    (its my birthday so you better be agreeing now! :P)
    @Damian: Whilst you might not have “said” it, you are certainly suggesting it. You are suggesting (erroneously) that “eating” the fruit (and quoting 3:22 to prove it) is what gives eternal life.

    Henri Blocher writes:
    “In 3:22 God appears to be worried that the eating of fruit, in spite of himself and in spite of the sin of man, should by itself produce an effect of immortality. And that is quite simply magic.[…]Magic supposes a view of the world and of the divine that is diametrically opposed to that of Genesis […] The entire Bible whose inspiration is equally shared by the Genesis “tablets”, excludes any idea of the supernatural effect attached to any kind of food.” (“In the Beginning” pg 123-124)

    He goes on to say that the “tree of life” should be view figuratively (even though there may have been a real tree).

    God is NOT saying “eating this fruit gives eternal life” – He is saying being in the presence of God, receiving life from God, gives eternal life. Adam has eternal life because he is in right relationship with God, he is in the presence of God, and has no sin.
    Once he sins (by disobeying.. the eating is only symbolic of the disobedience), he is not allowed to “reach out to God (the tree of life)” and have eternal life. That relationship is broken. He is removed from Eden and the way back is locked.

    Joke:
    Adam and cain and abel are walking past eden one day, and Cain says, isnt that our old house dad? it looks great. Adam replied, yeah, it was great until your mom ate us out of house and home.

  • Glenn March 19, 2010, 5:50 pm

    Geoff, I don’t believe that the story of Adam and Eve is literal history, so I don’t think we can ask at what point God would have considered them to have passed the test. The point of the account is that man is sinful and therefore unworthy of eternal life and fellowship with God.

    But even if I didn’t hold that view, I don’t see that there’s a problem here. How, for example, can we judge that Jesus survived the devil’s temptations in the wilderness? Surely you wouldn’t characterise that scenario as someone saying to him “Oh what a good messiah you are.” Who knows when that point would have come for Adam and Eve? It’s hardly up to us to decide what a suitable length of time would have been, and we’re in no position to ridicule whatever length of time God might have chosen.

  • Nathan March 19, 2010, 6:04 pm

    Geoff: I’m guessing you meant me, not Damian.

    God is not worried in 3:22. He’s not glancing around furtively with a paniced voice “Stop them quick quick before they eat it, oh no what if we’re too late!?”. He is in full control of what’s going on, and merely stating what Adam could do given Adam’s freedom. He ensure’s Adam cannot live for ever by barring him from the tree.

    Apart from that, I don’t see how what Blocher says helps your case as I expressly stated in my previous post, that the fruit is not magical. It’s not magical in the same way that transubstantiation is not true, i.e. the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper is not really physically Christ’s flesh and blood.

  • Geoff March 19, 2010, 7:33 pm

    @Glenn: The point being the test was “not doing something” – at what point of not doing something have you proved that you are not going to do something?
    So, at what point, had Adam not sinned, would they have become immortal? If the point of the test is to prove whether or not they deserved eternal life, then they were either a: not eternal and having to pass this test to become eternal, b: eternal and having to pass the test to retain their eternal nature. That is under “b” they remain as they were created to be until such time as they prove they do not deserve this.

    The temptation scenario applies in the same way, Jesus was to continue “how he was” – he wasnt going to change. He was already the Son of God, in the same way Adam was already possessing “eternal life”.

    @nathan: sorry.. I dont know where that came from 😉
    You appear to be confusing your literality and your figurativeness. You say:
    “Do you think they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge literally? If so then ‘eating’ from the tree of life carries the same meaning. Do you think they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge figuratively? If so then ‘eating’ from the tree of life carries the same meaning as that”

    And I was at pains to show you that its NOT the same which ever way you look at it. If you look at it literally, its magic. If you look at it figuratively, its “what it says about God and humanity”.

    I dont know what you mean by God being worried, I’ve said nothing of the sort.

  • Glenn March 19, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Geoff – so at what point then did Jesus not give into the temptation? Everyone recognises that there came a point at which the temptation episode was over and Jesus had won.

    Is the end of the trial somewhat arbitrary? Sure. Is this a problem? Well if it is, you’ll need to offer an account of why it’s a problem.

    I would also echo Nathan’s comments. If Adam already possessed immortality, then what need was there to eat of the tree? If the answer is “to sustain him,” then this concedes that Adam wasn’t immortal.

  • Geoff March 19, 2010, 10:01 pm

    Glenn, the point isnt about when the trial is over, but the nature of the one under trial, isnt it?
    If Adam was not eternal, then at some point had he not failed the test, he would have become eternal. In this case, the text clearly (at least to me) says he was “changed” and made mortal – if he was changed, and went from “un-number years” to “numbered years”, then he changed from eternal to “not eternal”.

    I said, and offered support with Blocher, that its not the “eating” (because that is literal, therefore magical, and not the intention of the passage). [Eternal] life comes from God, and only through relationship symbolised by the tree, in eden. What changes is ACCESS to the tree (ie life from God). The tree/fruit itself does nothing, its a symbol and it is used throughout Scripture in this manner. One can even see the cross as a “tree”, through which God gives [eternal] life, even though it doesnt help my analogy.
    Eating does not sustain Adam, God does. Adam’s nature was never meant to change “for the better” (to become eternal), but it did change for the worse when relationship was broken, and eternal life lost.

    Is it clearer now?

    btw, wordpress comments suck badly for debating.. :s

  • James Rea March 19, 2010, 10:10 pm

    Nathan

    Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

    And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. 1 Cor 15:49

    Just 2 scriptures that demonstrate that our new bodies, whilst called spirit/spiritual bodies, will have the same physicality as did Christ after his resurrection. If Jesus can appear among his disciples when the doors are locked, why won’t we be able to? If angels can call down destruction on Sodom ie manipulate the natural elements, why should we not have equal or greater capacity once made like Jesus? This not irrelevant speculation, Nathan, nor is it science fiction fantasy. Scripture gives us glimpses of our lives in the world to come. It is an encouragement to my faith at least 🙂

    BTW, totally concur with the view that Adam and Eve were created mortal with bodies that would (eventually) decay and die. They walked side by side with God every day and that did not make them eternal, nor does it today. We simply qualify for resurrection through faith in Jesus. It’s as if Jesus cancelled the disobedience in Adam by allowing us to choose him and lead a life of obedience to him, so creating the certainty of eternal life post-resurrection.

  • Glenn March 19, 2010, 11:27 pm

    James, if we will have bodies like Jesus then will we be able to turn water into wine? How about creating another universe? Do you think I might be able to pull that off?

  • Nathan March 19, 2010, 11:28 pm

    James: neither of the verses you mention suggest the kind of body that does ‘amazing feats’.

    Also, just to clarify, I didn’t say Adam & Eve were created mortal.

    Geoff: I’m not confusing literalness or figurativeness. I’m saying to you, pick one, I don’t care which one, because the implication in 3:22 is the same: they were not immortal.

    God being worried comes from your Blocher quote.

  • Glenn March 19, 2010, 11:39 pm

    James, let me put it another way: Maybe the abilities that Jesus had (or what happened with the angels) were not the result of the type of body he had. I mean, Jesus did amazing things prior to the resurrection as well.

    Maybe something else gave Jesus those abilities. Like being the Son of God.

  • James Rea March 20, 2010, 12:59 am

    …or, Glenn, like being totally at one, and filled to overflowing, with the Holy Spirit. You know, the same one who resides in you. I’m not saying that what Jesus could do was as a result of his resurrected body, I’m stating that the entire resurrection package from God will equip me to act beyond what we can achieve physically right now, if I become LIKE him at my resurrection (see verses at #40 plus Luke 20:35-36). Sure, being the Son of God gave Jesus something of a headstart over us in his relationship with his (and our) Father in heaven, and his miracles witness this. However, Jesus wasn’t alone in history in the performance of miracles, so his sonship is not the qualifying factor necessarily; indeed, your adoption into God’s family makes you a co-heir with what Jesus has already inherited as a firstfruit. Unless you hold to cessationism, ‘greater things will you do’.

    Nathan, I’m confused with your post 42. To Geoff you say A & E were not immortal. To me you state that you didn’t say they were created mortal. Can you be absolutely clear. Did God make them to die eventually or not? I believe Gen 3 says he did.

    Also, I realise the verses don’t expressly declare we will be able to do amazing feats; I extrapolated from the conclusion that they declare I will be like Jesus and, by extension, should be able to perform similar actions to him on earth.

    I suspect though I will be denied the opportunity to invent some more dimensions or splash some random quasars about. God saw that his creation was good once complete and, presumably, isn’t interested in another universe to administer 🙂

  • Glenn March 20, 2010, 2:07 am

    I guess the question is – how much like him will we be?

    As for being full of the Holy Spirit, I don’t know what role this line of reasoning is playing. Do you mean that we could perform miracles like Jesus if we’re full of the Holy Spirit? As for this “to overflowing” business, I’m afraid excessive use of metaphors sometimes confuses me.

  • Nathan March 20, 2010, 3:16 am

    James, you may want to read the whole thread to catch up. See comment 32:

    Saying they are not immortal is not the same as saying they were mortal, as weird as that may seem. They would probably have eventually gone either way, irrespective of how long it would have taken them to do that. Fact is, they took the disobedience option.

  • James Rea March 20, 2010, 7:13 pm

    Glenn, I think I referred to being filled with the Holy Spirit in one of your earlier blog posts, so won’t repeat stuff here. Of course, the liquid metaphor comes from John 7:38 regarding streams of living water flowing from the believer, so I hope the fog of confusion has lifted slightly. I would see that an overflow of God’s spirit in a person’s life as evidenced by an abundance of Gal 5 fruit – however, all this is somewhat off topic.

    Nathan, I caught up and am still unclear on your self-proclaimed weird statement. Are you saying that there was some intermediate state between mortality and immortality that they existed in prior to making a choice to grab the forbidden fruit? You said ‘They would probably have eventually gone either way’ – that’s got to be the safest ever statement 😉

  • Glenn March 20, 2010, 7:23 pm

    James, yes, I think I recall your statements on the earlier blog post, and yes I am familiar with John 7. As you know, I think your overall theology of the Holy Spirit in the church is at odds with the majorioty witness of Scripture and is based on a couple of texts at the expense of all. At the time (in the other thread) I got the feeling that you basically said “sure you’re right, but what about these two verses…” There’s probably little point in going over that here.

    I guess I worry when someone alludes to a position that sounds odd (e.g. we will be able to do apprently miraculous things after the resurrection), and when called on to explain, they appeal to biblical metaphors and don’t really give a concrete elaboration. I mean Benny Hinn claims that like Adam (???) we will be able to fly through space and see other planets that way (not with spacecraft either!). So any suggestion that we will be able to do the miraculous after the resurrection is going to require a fairly robust biblical defence. Is it based on exegesis? Or something else? Perhaps it’s grounded in your own theology about how people should be able to do these things now, quite apart from the Bible not saying that we will do these things after the resurrection.

    So the question still remains: How much like Jesus do you think we will be after the resurrection, and why?

  • James Rea March 21, 2010, 1:03 am

    Glenn, it just goes to show that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. I thought my view of the Holy Spirit was the scripturally-based majority witness, certainly the view held by the early church commentators.

    If any position sounded odd my explanation appealed to scripture, whether metaphorical or otherwise. After all most biblical metaphors are fairly simple to understand. When I read 1 John 3:2, 1 Cor 15:49, Luke 20:35-36, Phil 3:21, Romans 8 I see a post-resurrection body that is glorious, immortal, totally led/controlled/at one with the Holy Spirit, and in the likeness of Jesus’s. In other words, not like an everlasting version of this current model. If I will be like Jesus’s resurrected body, the least I can expect is to have flesh, bone (not blood, for the life of this new body will come from the Holy Spirit, hence be a spiritual body), be without decay, without sin, without death, and be able to operate in what we would call today the miraculous.

    Now without biblical references to inter-planetary travel, I would say that Benny Hinn is on dangerously misleading ground with statements such as you quote. I have never alluded to any possible activity for a post-resurrection person that does not have a scriptural precedent. In all likelihood, by the time I get to that stage, I couldn’t care less what I’m capable of anyhow; I’ll be too preoccupied worshipping, reigning etc.

    Whether these, and other, conclusions of mine are derived through exegesis or eisegesis, I’ll leave to you to decide. At the end of the day, does my view really matter – no. Does it encourage my faith and increase my hope and longing for the resurrection – yes. Hope that gets closer to answering your question.

  • James Rea March 21, 2010, 1:19 am

    Just one other point. If Jesus declared to the Sadduccees in Luke 20:27 onwards that those who have taken part in the resurrection from the dead will be like the angels in heaven ie they will not die, nor will they marry, you might decide that this is the only conclusion we can derive from that passage. However, a quick skim of biblical angelic activity portrays beings of immense supernatural capability that are not limited by earthly boundaries. Therefore, one could conclude that we will be like the angels in other ways besides those mentioned explicitly. Just a thought.

  • Glenn March 21, 2010, 8:45 am

    So… because we will be like the angels in some regard, you’re saying that we can look at everything done by angels and apply those to us as well?

    Or because we will have bodies like Jesus, you’re saying that we can look at the life and work of Jesus as a smorgasboard will be able to do as well?

    I guess I just don’t see the logical (or exegetical) connection.

  • James Rea March 21, 2010, 11:33 am

    No? Oh, well, let’s call it quits on this one at any rate.

  • Glenn March 21, 2010, 12:12 pm

    Well OK… but I don’t see why really. At present I’m the one left stood up on prom night! I just wanted an explanation. I mean, if there’s a connection that you know of, wouldn’t you tell me? It would go something like this:

    1) At the resurrection our bodies will be trasnformed, like Jesus’ body was.
    2) Jesus did wonderful things, both before and after his resurrection.
    3) ____________________________ (this is where the vital connecting link goes, associating Jesus’ resurrected body with his wodnerful deeds in such a way that getting a resurrected body leads to the exepctation that we can do wonderful things too).
    4) Therefore after the resurrection we will be able to do wonderful miraculous things.

    Or perhaps:

    1) Angels in Scripture have the power to work wonderful miracles [citation needed, because this is not obvious]
    2) Jesus said that at the resurrection we will be like the angels in the sense that we will neither marry nor be given in marriage.
    3) If we will be like the angels in this sense, then we must also be like the angels in every other sense [this premise will need its own defence]
    4) Therefore at the resurrection we will be like angels in every sense, and therefore able to work wonderful miracles.

    If you do in fact believe something like one of these arguments, could you indicate which? I don’t need to be convinced, I just want to know what your reasons are for believing as you do. So far I feel like it has been a vague allusion in one direction and an innuendo in another direction. But I don’t know what the actual line of reasoning is.

    If there’s a reason that you don’t want me to know your reasons, I guess that’s fine. But we’re not at an impasse where we need to call it quits because we can’t agree. We’re just at a point where I want to know your reasons, and it feels like you just don’t want to tell!

  • James Rea March 21, 2010, 11:17 pm

    OK Glenn, let me gather my thoughts and I will try to satisfy your questions as best I can. Rest assured that there is no deliberate motive or desire to withhold information. I thought I had bought you tickets to the prom, but then find you don’t want to dance!

    My methods at extracting theological concepts from scripture are, I believe, honest and consistent. Without training in philosophical critical analysis or Biblical studies, let alone the original Greek, I am left with assessing themes (such as the resurrection) in terms of what the relevant scriptures say on the matter. I thought I had achieved that and made a suitable case. However, more work to be done it seems.

    That said, it seems that any efforts at further explanation will be largely nugatory, given that you say you don’t need convincing. To me, that means you are with me already on this but I just need to express myself in a clear 4-step (for example) format or, if not, any reasoning will not sway you from your extant ideas on the subject. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a shot, but I have a busy week ahead and need to conduct some further research.

    You’ll still get to the Ball 🙂

  • jonathan robinson March 23, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Good post Glenn. Woah, the comments really went off here, sad not to have time to read them all. Just wanted to let you know I have tried a variant reading to Glenn’s, although my reading does not contradict Glenn’s “physicalism” it does interpret the passage rather differently. Enjoy 🙂

    http://xenos-theology.blogspot.com/2010/03/2-cor-121-5-is-paul-just-taking-mickey.html

  • James Rea April 9, 2010, 2:04 am

    Well, Glenn since Eat, Drink and be Merry is enjoying something of a mini-revival, I thought I’d be true to my word here at # 54. Sorry it’s a bit late. I am at pains to avoid ‘vague allusion in one direction and an innuendo in another direction’, and quoted relevant passages of scripture to back statements in previous posts. I also note that your last reply to the above mentioned blog entry included ‘I am inferring propositions about the philosophy of mind from what Paul said about theology’, so if you spot any inferences of mine I hope you’ll be understanding. I certainly don’t want a repeat of that 254-reply behemoth over on Preteristblog that descended into something Dante might have included in his circles.

    I’ll only use the bible to validate a claim, and start with Luke 20:27-36, so that you can see my reasoning that when we inherit our resurrection bodies they will be more capable that our current versions (I think that’s what you said I failed to explain clearly).
    Here the Sadducees are banging on to Jesus, trying to outwit him on a theoretical point regarding a many-married woman and the resurrection (which they didn’t believe in). Jesus turns their question around and tells them they have missed the point entirely – 34And Jesus answering said unto them, “The children of this world marry and are given in marriage. 35But they that shall be accounted worthy to obtain that World and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. (21st Century King James Version)
    So, we will be as the angels are after the resurrection. The point about marriage is moot since it is an activity of this world, not the next. The significant aspect is our equality with angels. Hebrews 1:6 states: 6And again, when He bringeth in the First-Begotten into the world, He saith, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” So, amongst other verses in that chapter, we are clearly below Jesus in the post-resurrection hierarchy, and it’s safe to conclude that we won’t have the creative powers Jesus possesses.
    What kind of capabilities did angels possess? From Genesis 19 alone we see that they can eat and possess supernatural power (to cause blindness in v11). They have immense power (Ps 103:20); they can indulge in the miraculous (Acts 12); they are invisible to the human eye, if necessary (Numbers 22 – Balaam’s donkey and 2 Kings 6:17 – 17 And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha); they battled against demonic principalities and powers (Dan 10)…well, you get the picture.

  • James Rea April 9, 2010, 2:05 am

    It’s all remarkably similar to the body Jesus presents post-resurrection. He can simply appear at will in a location, he also can eat (Luke 24 – 36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you’’. 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
    He said he had flesh and bones, not flesh and blood, for in the old body the life is in the blood (Lev 17), in the new the life comes from the Spirit and power of God. Earlier in that chapter the disciples failed to recognize Jesus since the old can’t identify with the new, but from 1 John 3:2 – 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is , so we will see him as he really is for we shall be of the same nature.

    Verses such as Phil 3:21 – 21who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body and Romans 8 – 18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently – both point to glorious bodies, as does 1 Cor 15:49.

    As to what the full reach of our new resurrected bodies will be only God knows, but the scriptures give plenty of hints and clues that we will not be simply a made over, non-decaying version of the Mark 1 human. We will be as the angels and in the likeness of Jesus. So:

    1. At the resurrection our bodies will be transformed, as Jesus’s body was.

    2. Angels can do things beyond the humanly ordinary (see verses and commentary above), as could Jesus during his post-resurrection time on Earth.

    3. Since we will have equality with angels, and also be made of the same glorious bodily material as Jesus, we will be able to perform acts in total harmony with God’s will, as empowered by the Holy Spirit.

    4. Therefore, after the resurrection our bodies will be able to perform above and beyond what we see in humans today.

    How does that sound? Apologies for the lack of brevity. I hope the Prom has a nice glitter ball 😉

  • Glenn April 9, 2010, 10:31 am

    James, looking at your premises, there’s a very fast and very large leap between 2 and 3. Where does “equality with angels” come from? Being physically transformed like Jesus doesn’t translated to equality with Jesus, and being physically transformed as Jesus was has little (if anything) to do with being like angels (i.e. not being married), so premise 3 appears out of nowhere.

  • James Rea April 9, 2010, 8:07 pm

    I’m honestly not sure, given the contextual references I provided, why you say there is ‘a very fast and very large leap between 2 and 3. I won’t repeat it all again here, but re-read the Luke 20:36 bit in the middle of #56. Jesus directly refutes your line ‘being physically transformed as Jesus was has little (if anything) to do with being like angels’. Furthermore, I never said that we will have equality with Jesus, just we will be LIKE him (again references in 56 & 57). Don’t be side-tracked by the ‘not being married’ aspect. Jesus was simply taking the wind out the Sadducees argument that was centred on marriage in the after-life.

    So, premise 3 appears entirely from logical deduction of the scriptures I provided. Does this conflict with your concept of our resurrection nature? If so, how? I’d be interested to hear your line.

  • Glenn April 9, 2010, 8:20 pm

    It is clear, from a logical point of view, that premise three is not supported by premises 1 and 2, nor is it implicit in the Scriptures cited.

    All that is said up to and including premise 2, and all that is supported by the texts cited, is that our bodies will be trasnformed, as Christ’s was, and that like the angels, we will not die or marry.

    Then all of a sudden: BAM, premise three claims that we will be able to do the kind of thing that God enabled angels to do, and which Jesus did. The logical problem is that it’s an invalid inference. It’s not entailed by what came before. It introduces ideas that are nowhere in the material shown beforehand.

    When it comes to the resurrection, what I believe is intentionally limited to what Scripture says about the resurrection. Scripture affirms that we will live again, that we will be – as Jesus us – immortal and free of sin and corruption, and that we will (like the angels) not marry or be given in marriage. We will live in a creation free of defect and of all cause for sorrow.

    This is what the texts that you cited support. That we will share specific, identifiable features with Jesus or with angels does not imply that we will share further features with them.

  • James Rea April 9, 2010, 10:52 pm

    Actually, it’s premise 4 that declares we will be able to achieve more than we are humanly capable of once resurrected, in the sense that angels can do more than the Mk 1 us. Premise 3 simply says we will be as Jesus was and be in complete harmony with God.

    To use a rather trite automotive analogy, if Jesus was resurrected as a brand new Bentley, and says that we will be as all the Porsches (we are currently no better than 10 year old Fords at best), but we will not have velour seats, however, we will never break down, and I know from other NT writers that I will like the Bentley as well as the Porsche, I can infer pretty safely that I will perform better than my old Ford. I will not limit myself to the basic statement that I will not break down and not have velour seats; I can deduce with all validity that I will have wheels, tyres, non-rusting bodywork, a powerful engine and other attributes of these cars. I should be able to most if not all a Porsche can do, but not that of a Bentley.

    Basic, I know, and the car analogy doesn’t take into account the change in building materials that come post-resurrection. That said, if you’ve driven a 10 year old Ford and a new Bentley you might disagree!

  • Glenn April 9, 2010, 11:45 pm

    Yeah, but the “devil is in the detail” lurking behind what premise 3 really means by “equality” and “acts in total harmony with God’s will.”

    I thinkt he car analogy is too far removed, and here’s why: When Jesus was on earth before his crucifixion, he was made of the same stuff as his fellow human. Already they were made of the same stuff, and yet nobody suggests that when Jesus was on earth, everyone had his abilities.

    Why then would anyone suggest that if we will be made of the same stuff as Jesus in the future, things will be totally different, and suddenylt that fact will mean that we will be able to do… “acts in total harmony with God’s will” with an innuendo of miracles?

    As I said, it just doesn’t logically follow.

  • James Rea April 10, 2010, 4:05 pm

    Well, I would suggest that there are plenty of accounts of NT believers exhibiting all of Jesus’s abilities whilst he was on earth – raising the dead, casting out demons, healing the sick. Clearly, they weren’t equal to the singular Son of God who had come from heaven and would return to heaven. As one born totally free from sin, he was a unique man, BUT his works were (and are) carried out by many. So, we are not equal with Jesus after the resurrection, just as men weren’t equal with him in the flesh, but we will do much that he is capable of, and in an immortal, sin-free body.

    When Luke 20:36 says we have equality with the angels, the discussion is what that equality will encompass. I am taking it to mean we don’t die, we don’t need to marry and more. You just don’t go with the ‘and more’ bit.

  • Glenn April 10, 2010, 4:11 pm

    So James, it looks like the real issue is not that you think we’ll gain miraculous abilities after the resurrection. The issue is that you believe we should have them now.

    Why recruit the doctrine of the resurrection to promote that? 😉

  • James Rea April 10, 2010, 11:15 pm

    If by ‘miraculous abilities’ you mean those which I believe we will possess after the resurrection then, no, I have never stated, inferred, hinted, or alluded to our having them now. So that issue is not the issue 🙂

    If you mean those works which Jesus exhibited before his resurrection then, yes, I do believe we have them now.

    That said, what I have read on cessationism seems reasonably convincing, so that area is a work in progress in reality. Do you have any blog entries on the subject? I couldn’t make anything out in your word cloud.

  • Glenn April 11, 2010, 2:07 am

    James, I meant the following:

    * I know (or at least think I know) your pentecostal leanings when it comes to miracles
    * You were saying that having a body like Jesus after the resurrection means that we’ll have those abilities after the resurrection
    * This implies the principle that same body = same abilities
    * This implies that right now, we shoudl expect to work miracles like Jesus did.

    Since this last point is either the same or close to what you think due in part to your Pentecostal leanings, I strongly suspect – your denial notwithstanding – that it is this approach to the miraculous that is actually underlying your approach here, if you’ll pardon my saying so. It would explain why, for example, you maintain that we will have miraculous abilities after the resurrection even though none of the biblical material on the resurrection suggests this. It’s because you think that being able to do such things is part and parcel of being truly in tune with God.

    If you’re suggesting that actually our post resurrection abilities will surpass those of Jesus when he was on earth, then wow… I wonder what sort of miraculous abilities you have in mind for the future. Surely you mean abilities like those that Jesus had. And if that’s so, then actually you are saying that we should have those abilities already.

    I think that unless you were already committed to that view of genuine spirituality (i.e. that we should be able to do works like those of Jesus right now), you would not find the suggestion of post-resurrection miraculous abilities plausible in the least.

    The only thing I have written that’s close to this is an old seminar that I presented back in 2001, on tongues and prophecy. You can find that here.

  • James Rea April 11, 2010, 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the link Glenn. I’ll go through it in slow time.

    It’s true, my pentecostal Christian background does still colour a number of doctrinal aspects, even now, but there’s a long road ahead and thinking shifts. I would just add, if you have grasped that I equate bodily substance (pre- and post-resurrection) with miraculous ability, I have not expressed myself sufficiently clearly. Just dashing out to church, but quickly: miraculous pre-resurrection activity is solely from the equipping of the Holy Spirit – our flesh accomplishes nothing, and we, rightly, steal none of God’s glory.

    Post-resurrection, we’ve gone from dial up to ultra high speed broadband, in terms of connection with the Holy Spirit, and as a spiritual body comprising the same form/material as Jesus had post-resurrection, we will, from the verses I have already referred to, be able to accomplish much more in the miraculous than now. Since God made me new body, if I can do angelic-like things with it (see above posts), he still gets all the glory.

  • Gareth April 17, 2012, 3:47 pm

    I just came hear after reading a blog called “Choosing Hats” where they tried to rebut this article.

    I was unfamiliar with the issues raised by this text in 2 Corinthians, but having read their response and your blog: Glenn, you are right, they are wrong. “Choosing hats”? More like “Choosing what the Bible means based on my own theology!”

  • Sandra April 19, 2012, 9:11 am

    Wow… I just saw the “Choosing hats” blog commenting on this blog post (someone linked to it on Facebook). I was shocked by their dishonesty! Glenn, in this blog post, says that he was alerted to an issue when he read a translation from an Aramaic New Testament that didn’t look right to him, so he started checking English versions translated from the Greek (i.e normal English New Testaments). He found that they too all disagreed with the NIV – and then he checked the Greek wording as well. All of these sided against the NIV.

    But then when the “choosing hats” folks looked at Glenn’s claim that the NIV does not translate the Greek well, they had the absolute dishonesty to say that Glenn never checked the Greek at all and that he relied solely on an “Aramaic version” for his conclusion. I’m loathe to use this word, but C L Bolt (who wrote that blog) is a simple liar.

  • Mark April 19, 2012, 10:06 am

    I can only echo the sentiments of Gareth and Sandra. This “Bolt” fellow has not engaged with your evidence at all, Glenn. Instead he has gone off on a doctrinaire rant about how your presuppositions are all wrong. But what about the actual evidence that you go through? Well, that doesn’t seem to matter. I mean, look at what Paul says. Immediately before describing what happened, Paul says “I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.” He then “goes on,” to reiterate the phrase, to describe being taken to the third heaven and seeing all sorts of things. So clearly Paul regarded the event as visionary. And yet “C L Bolt” steps in to tell us that Paul says “no such thing,” and that it wasn’t a vision at all! He knows better than the author!

    Clearly something is holding him back from seeing this evidence – which is there for all to see. Probably a “presupposition” is at work here! 😉

  • Brinton April 20, 2014, 5:41 pm

    Out of body experiences are possible as the spirit of the person is what becomes temporarily out of its temporal physical body. You may consider yourself a physicalist “Dr., but what part of the term “out-of-body” do you not understand?
    All things are possible to those who actually choose to believe Christ Jesus. Nothing is possible for those who do not – unless He chooses for it to be so.
    Believe Him who’s presence may or may not also be believed in. Satan and all his cohorts actually believe in His existence/presence/historicity yet choose not to believe Him to their own doom.

  • Glenn April 20, 2014, 8:29 pm

    “what part of the term “out-of-body” do you not understand?”

    I am not sure why you are asking me that. I understand all of that phrase. I just don’t believe they happen. Certainly that phrase is not in this passage of Scripture, if that is what you are suggesting.

    I hope you enjoy the blog.

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